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Kendra Paez ’22: Exploring the Power of Place

How Kendra Paez expanded her friendships and global perspective with Wheaton’s Aequitas Fellows Program

Words: Emily Bratcher

Kendra Paez standing

Kendra Paez ’22

Kendra Paez ’22 took an Advanced Placement Human Geography class in high school that piqued her curiosity about how humans experience and shape the Earth.

When she came to Wheaton, the Aequitas Fellows Program—a selective four-year cohort-style academic program centered on interdisciplinary themes—was a natural fit. During her past four years at the College, Paez has found the program deeply enriching in conjunction with her studies in international relations and urban studies. She shared that the program has exposed her to a wealth of ideas and experiences that have been integral to her college experience and have set the stage for her future success.

Specialized coursework is a key aspect of Aequitas, with custom curriculum curated to each of the three cohort types: Public Humanities and Arts, Sustainability, and Urban Leadership. For example, Paez and her Urban Leadership cohort took a course on Placemaking in Urban Contexts. “I loved the different perspectives we encountered through the readings,” she said. “We discussed everything about the style of streets and monuments and how those things contribute to our experience of a particular place.”

Thanks to opportunities available through Aequitas, she has traveled to Washington, D.C. and interned at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development working in policy development and research. She also spent a summer in Costa Rica, working with local missionaries and supporting their ministries—programmatically and interpersonally. From helping teach English classes to playing pickup soccer games with the neighborhood kids, Paez was able to engage with her host community through mutually encouraging, day-to-day activities.

Her Aequitas-related internships have also been closer to home. While participating in Wheaton in Chicago, Paez interned with the nonprofit WorldChicago, a nonprofit organization that works to inspire local citizens toward diplomatic action around issues like youth leadership and connecting Chicago to the globe. In her role, Paez worked to support the U.S. Department of State’s Professional Fellows Program to connect young leaders with global mentors and career networks.

In addition to internships and classes, Aequitas sponsors special lectures and events for student cohorts. One such event was Progressive Baptist Church’s “Faith and Politics” event, held during the Chicago mayoral election. During the event, the Aequitas cohort, along with many others in attendance, heard from some of the most powerful people in Chicago who were running for mayor. “As an international relations major, combining an urban lens with faith and politics in this really historical, famous church was really cool,” she said. “I loved the chance to integrate all those different elements.”

She also enjoyed going out for tacos with her cohort after the event, and not just because the tacos were so good (and they were). Throughout the years, she and her cohort forged close connections with one another, both in and out of the classroom. “Being able to form relationships with people who share a common interest has been a unique and meaningful experience for me during my time at Wheaton and as part of Aequitas,” she said.

I loved the different perspectives we encountered through the readings. We discussed everything about the style of streets and monuments and how those things contribute to our experience of a particular place.